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Stephon Marbury attempts a shot during Game 3 of the first round of the CBA playoffs against Zhejiang Lions on Sunday in Beijing. Beijing Ducks won 101-87 to reach the semifinals. Cui Meng / China Daily
It was supposed to be the Stephon Marbury show.
Instead, it became the Randolph Morris and Ji Zhe Variety Hour.
If the path the Beijing Ducks took was unexpected, the result was anything but.
Despite a somewhat disappointing three games from star guard Marbury, the Ducks swept the Zhejiang Lions, 3-0, capping off the quarterfinal series with a 101-87 victory on Sunday night at Beijing's MasterCard Center.
A series that was supposed to come down to Marbury on one side and the Lions' muscle on the other became something else entirely - a showcase for Morris and the Ducks' young Chinese players Ji.
Things looked ugly for Beijing early, with the Lions jumping out to a 14-2 lead with 8:44 left in the first quarter.
But some timely jumpers from Ji helped the Ducks chip away and pull within 26-24 by the time the second quarter began, and by halftime, they had found their way to a 48-44 advantage.
Particularly disappointing for the Lions was their inability to take advantage of an enormous size advantage in the paint, with 2.22 meter center P.J. Ramos being held to a manageable 21 points and seven rebounds by the likes of Morris, Ji and any number of Ducks that Ramos outweighed by more pounds, kilograms or any other unit of measurement than one could possibly consider fair.
Morris, in particular, was nearly untouchable from the moment he entered the game, delivering a huge block under the basket on the Lions' first possession of the second quarter.
In what seems to have become his trademark, he answered every Zhejiang momentum-builder in kind. A Ramos 15-foot-jumper was immediately returned on the next possession. So too a Zhang Yongpeng two-handed dunk in the third quarter that was answered with a two-hander of swift and vicious authority. It all added up to 38 points, 10 rebounds and a trip to the semifinals.
Ji had 12 points - eight of which came during an explosive first quarter - and six rebounds.
Marbury wasn't entirely absent, of course, contributing 18 points, 10 assists and five rebounds - much of which came in the fourth quarter, after Beijing had the game comfortably in hand. The fact the Ducks' best player averaged 13.3 points per game in the series, and they still swept, could portend good things for the remainder of the playoffs, provided Marbury finds his way back near the form that earned him the CBA Finals MVP award during the Ducks' championship run last season.
It was the second consecutive season the Lions were swept in the quarterfinals by the Ducks, who will face the No 2 Shandong Golden Lions in what figures to be a hard-fought semifinal series beginning next Sunday in Beijing.
(China Daily 03/04/2013 page24)